What I Mean When I Tell You My Daughter Is Autistic


I want the world to become more educated about neurodiversity. Knowing people with autism diagnoses means understanding can come more easily to us all. So if I come straight out and say “my daughter’s on the spectrum,” that means “check your judgment.” It means “resist assumptions.”

It can be hard to distinguish my daughter from neurotypical kids her age. I get that. It probably comes as a surprise when I say it. But when I tell you my daughter has been given an autism diagnosis, what I’m really saying is this: when she does something you don’t expect, choose compassion over judgment.

If she doesn’t want to give you a high-five or a smile when she greets you, don’t assume she’s impolite. If she walks away from you when you’re talking to her, don’t assume she’s ignoring you on purpose.

If she gets upset when you don’t want to do things exactly her way, every single time, repetitively and consistently for hours or days on end, know that it’s something that can come with her autism.

If she shuts down and retreats in the middle of a play session with your kid, it might be because the rules of a game suddenly got changed. Or it could be that the conversation and activity is happening too fast to process.

If she can’t come to your child’s birthday party because there might be strangers there and too much noise and food that smells bad, don’t assume she doesn’t want to be there. She does. She wants so badly to come, I promise.

If she doesn’t get excited about things or doesn’t think things are funny, take it as a compliment that she’s showing you how she really feels. She’s not faking it. She’s not pretending to care or laugh. Showing that side of herself to you means she trusts you.

As her parents, we were relieved when we got the diagnosis. Finally someone could tell us that her behaviors come from a particular place. There’s a reason and a purpose for them.

Getting the diagnosis enabled us to look at her behaviors completely differently. Instead of being angry and frustrated, we worked harder to understand her triggers so we could teach her to cope.

Telling you about her diagnosis means that you can understand and identify what you see in her, too. She’s not a “brat.” She’s not “weird.” And we’re not ashamed.

She is part of the fascinating world of neurodivergence, and we will always expect you to honor her humanity.

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